As evidenced by the copious amount of Lego games that have come out over the past several years, titles based on one of the most prolific toy companies in the world remain enormously popular. Much of this success has to do with Lego games’ family-friendly approach to design, which can make them remarkably relaxing titles to play. With Lego Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga releasing on April 5, that seems more true than ever. Unfortunately, a recent report by Polygon suggests that the process of making these games has proven anything but relaxing. Apparently, the developers at TT Games have undergone extensive crunch trying to complete the upcoming Lego Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga, and this represents a recurring problem within the company.
According to the report, over 20 former and current employees at TT Games, all of whom are anonymous, have told Polygon about the studio’s crunch culture, tight schedules, and archaic development tools. So far, the higher-ups have supposedly ignored employees’ requests for change, and these persistent issues led to many workers becoming overwhelmed and stressed. Apparently, a few employees have even labeled these experiences as “PTTSD.”
Although the development of Lego Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga has lasted longer than the usual Lego project, clocking in at around five years, this supposedly did not meaningfully improve TT Games’ crunch problem. The change in management and staff turnover that occurred during The Skywalker Saga’s development apparently did not help matters. Additionally, employees reportedly informed management about the risks associated with switching to their new NTT engine, but these warnings went unheeded.
A persistent problem
Polygon’s sources claim that TT Games’ crunch culture has lasted ever since the company’s founding in 2005. Thanks to the overwhelming success of its Lego games, particularly the Lego Star Wars series, the company has mostly stuck to an annual release schedule, which reportedly contributed greatly to the studio’s issues with crunch. Employees suggest that management and higher-ups, including TT Games’ co-founder Jon Burton, would outright berate them if they attempted to leave work during normal hours. Apparently, some higher-ups would even follow employees leaving the studio and “question their reasons for leaving and their loyalty to the job.” According to one former employee, the company did not reserve crunch for emergencies, but instead, expected it as part of the job.
Soon after Warner Bros. acquired TT Games in 2007, the former hosted a company-wide survey that allowed employees to express their level of satisfaction with their working conditions. Supposedly, the survey ratings were exceptionally low at the time, which prompted Burton to try and address some of his employees’ concerns. Reportedly, the measures that Burton took did not go anywhere near far enough. He eliminated a few specific rules, including one that prohibited employees from answering phones at their desks, but he apparently did not substantially address the company’s fundamental issues.
It doesn’t stop there
The studio supposedly faced several other issues over the years. Salaries remained low and were often tied to overtime work, and bullying among staff became a common problem, especially at the company’s TT Fusion studio. Women also reportedly received poor treatment in the company, as they frequently received disparaging remarks, earned less pay than male employees for the same work, and were denied promotions.
Since the Polygon report almost exclusively uses anonymous sources, it remains difficult to determine the exact accuracy of its claims. But considering how pervasive crunch culture and other issues are within the gaming industry, it is far from unbelievable that the developer behind the Lego Star Wars games would suffer from these same problems. Crunch and other issues like it are extremely damaging to employees, and TT Games deserves to be scrutinized because of this.